Jack Smith, Untitled, c.1958-1962/2011
Analog C-print hand printed from original color negative on Fuji Crystal Archive paper
14 x 11 inches
35.6 x 27.9 cm
Courtesy of Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels
© Jack Smith Archive
OHWOW Gallery is pleased to present Queer Fantasy, a group exhibition curated by William J. Simmons. Featuring work by ten artists – A.K. Burns, Leidy Churchman, Jimmy DeSana, Celeste Dupuy-Spencer, Mariah Garnett, Jacolby Satterwhite, David Benjamin Sherry, Jack Smith, A.L. Steiner, and John Waters – this show seeks to recount and preserve a frequently marginalized history of queer voices within contemporary art.
The discourse surrounding Queer Art seems to center on generalities that assume a univocal motive exists, and that all queer artists intend to participate in forwarding this speculative agenda. Rather than exploring the idiosyncratic aesthetic of Queerness, the dominant ideological narrative suggests that this genre is solely concerned with behavior stereotypically attributed to a “queer lifestyle.”
In order to remedy these analytical shortcomings, this exhibition combines a group of artists from different generations and backgrounds working in a range of media. These artists illustrate the unique vision that Queerness offers, as a critical tool for the reformulation of normative art histories. There is always room for histories within histories, and the heterogeneity of Queer Fantasy points to diverse experiences and unexpected narratives. The artists in Queer Fantasy express themselves differently, yet what binds them is a common interest in interrogating existing histories with the beautifully disrupting power of queer representation.
With photography and film, Jimmy DeSana, David Benjamin Sherry, Jack Smith, and John Waters fly in the face of stodgy modernist quests for beauty unadulterated by flamboyant colors or subjects that offend delicate sensibilities. The camera unites these artists in order to challenge straight, male-centered photographic strategies.
Similarly, for Leidy Churchman and Celeste Dupuy-Spencer, painting is rooted in the beauty of everyday life. Churchman’s deadpan compositions are both understated and emotionally replete, and Dupuy-Spencer uses expressive strokes to recall the legacy of Abstract Expressionism while subverting its tenets.
Jacolby Satterwhite brings these issues into three dimensions and imbues a surreal aesthetic with a newfound vibrancy informed by the artist’s own life story. What results is the creation of a queer sculptural space – an unknown realm that is at once our own and somehow estranged.
Mariah Garnett, A.K. Burns, and A.L. Steiner use installation as a means of exploring complex issues of gender and sexuality. Burns and Steiner have contributed individual works that combine sculpture, appropriation, and photography, as well as the collaborative video Community Action Center. Garnett’s Encounters I May or May Not Have Had with Peter Berlin presents a glamorous journey that questions the nature of desire alongside the intergenerational histories that are central to queer life.
William J. Simmons is a critic and art historian, based in New York City. He received his B.A. in Art History and Queer Studies from Harvard University, and is currently a Ph.D. student in Art History at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. His work has appeared in Artforum, Frieze, Art in America, Aperture, Modern Painters, BOMB Magazine, W Magazine, and Flaunt Magazine. An interview between Simmons and David Getsy will appear in the forthcoming book Pink Labour on Golden Streets: When Form Becomes/Meets Politics, due out in the fall of 2015.